Yes, there’s a war. But I felt safe while in Israel
OpinionGuest columnist

Yes, there’s a war. But I felt safe while in Israel

The conflict does not represent what a resilient and vibrant country Israel is.

Just before sunrise in Tel Aviv (photo by joiseyshowaa, courtesy of
Just before sunrise in Tel Aviv (photo by joiseyshowaa, courtesy of

I just returned from a week in Israel. While the events of Oct. 7 have justifiably jarred the psyche of Israeli citizens about their security and that of the country, and while the massacre and fate of the hostages can be seen everywhere, amazingly, life goes on.

News reports paint a different picture than what I saw in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Yavne and Caesarea. Yes, Israel is at war in Gaza. However, the conflict does not represent what a resilient and vibrant country Israel is.

I met with security experts, a senior corporate lawyer, a retired national police executive who dealt with intelligence and research, and the head of a major corporation that manufactures locks and security hardware. They assured me that the Israel I have known since first visiting in 1961 is still alive and well and will survive and prosper. The political upheaval will be dealt with and the attempted global isolation will subside. The significant rise in antisemitism likely will continue, which mandates that the country survives.

The Israel that I savored last week, with young people on the beach in Tel Aviv, the vibrant neighborhoods in Jerusalem, the busy restaurants and sidewalk cafes, the shops, the traffic and the people going about their daily lives, was exhilarating.

I had not been there since 2019, just before the pandemic grounded the world from travel. Significant construction was everywhere, including a new high-speed rail connecting many cities.

As my senior guide at the Knesset stressed, Israel is the last safe place for Jews worldwide. So, for me, it is simple: Despite the tragedy of Oct. 7 and the plight of the soldiers and hostages and their families, the country is a miracle in the desert. Travel from the U.S. is more complicated because our airlines are still not flying to Ben Gurion, but El Al and other airlines from Europe are operating as usual. I flew in and out of Athens with no problem. Everything was as if there were no hostilities.

If you are considering visiting Israel as a tourist, for a bar mitzvah or for business, the fighting in Gaza is far away from the major cities. The day I departed, there were several rockets fired toward Tel Aviv, but they did no damage. Israel has shown that it can protect itself.

From the perspective of one who is keenly attuned to and deals with security issues, Israel may be safer than America. Every young soldier carries a weapon, but there are no mass shootings as we experience every week. Random and infrequent terrorist acts, yes, but the population does not seem scared. They are cautious, vigilant and mindful of what can happen, but it does not adversely affect their daily lives and business.

My wife, relatives and colleagues in Pittsburgh expressed alarm and dire warnings about what could happen if we went to Israel so soon after Oct. 7. They canceled plans for aliyah and travel. They postponed bar and bat mitzvahs. I had no fear for my journey to the Middle East, and I returned to Pittsburgh with great memories.

Support Israel as the world is trying to blame it for the actions triggered by Hamas that threatened the homeland and its existence. The metropolitan areas are safe. Enjoy and experience the food, the scenery and the friendship of the people.

Above all, enjoy the immediate camaraderie that only Jews can understand in their own country. Regardless of where you are from, being greeted with “shalom” means everything. PJC

Marc Weber Tobias is a lawyer, physical security expert, author and former prosecutor who lives in Squirrel Hill. His team sponsors a security engineering lab at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. He has written eight books, six of which are about security.

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